This course charts the relationship between modernism and politics from the revolutions of the late 19th century in Europe, through the Fascist period and World War II, to mid-century America and the transformation of radical ideals as a result of ascendant American economic, cultural, and political power. Using architecture as a touchstone, but encompassing the full scope of modern design -- including furniture design, industrial design, interior design, graphic design, and the representation of technology in films, magazines, and universal expositions -- we will investigate the impact of cataclysmic events on the lives and works of the major modernists. Topics to be covered will include: the work of Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier against the backdrop of the Weimar Republic in Germany; the effects of the Fascist seizure of power on modern architecture and design; the diaspora of European modernists to Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union; the work of Hans Scharoun in relation to the existentialist and humanist philosophy of Karl Jaspers; and the creation of the American modernist landscape, including discourses on the glass curtain wall skyscraper, the rise of shelter magazines and the suburban lifestyle philosophies they espoused, and the use and abuse of antiquity in the work of "mid-century modernists" such as Eero Saarinen and Edward Durrell Stone. We will take the generalities of modernism back to their particular history, to the friendships and antagonisms, conspiratorial conversations, love affairs, world wars, little magazines, new technologies, and narrow escapes.
Students must register for both the lecture and discussion section of this course.
Open to Undergraduate students.